With coffee in hand, I rummage through my work bag to find my favorite fine point pen. Onto the bookshelf to retrieve my Life Application Bible and my journal de jour, I am now armed to do battle.
Sometimes the battle is offensive: taking the hill of a major goal or life direction. However, my response has often been a defensive posture against an insidious enemy: anxiety.
In the military, they have basic training and a ton of practice. They have to be prepared when they face an enemy.
My fears pale in comparison to a soldier’s battle, but to me, they are real. The resulting anxiety sneaks up on me. It has only been since finding God that I have been equipped to conquer it.
I remember when I first started reading the Bible, somehow (okay, it was the concordance in the back) I quickly found all of the verses about worry and anxiety.
I wanted solutions, and I desperately needed comfort.
You see, I was a professional worrier. Back before I met Jesus, my own B.C., I had all of the typical signs of stress and anxiety:
- Insomnia as anxious thoughts replayed my fear over and over again.
- Hyper-focus and activity trying to control everything in my world.
- Tightness in my chest and an inability to focus in the present moment.
I was a mess.
And then Jesus came with so many amazing promises:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7)
If I will clothes the flowers and feed the birds, what more will I do for you whom I love.
(paraphrase from Matthew 6:26-28)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Honestly, for me, it was one of the first times I didn’t feel so alone.
Growing up was a difficult time for me. The result of an unstable childhood was a young adult who pretty much trusted no one and was hell-bent on doing everything herself.
My need to take chaos, and bring order and progress to it, had some upside in the business world; however, personally it created walls and loneliness. It made life harder than it needed to be.
Anxiety is an expression or a symptom to our fear.
It is a fear of what may happen. And when we see so many fearful things happening in the world, it doesn’t always feel farfetched that our worst fear could become our reality.
That is how my first strategy to fight anxiety evolved; try to always stay in control. As you can imagine, this was difficult and exhausting.
In many cases, my fight to maintain control didn’t keep bad things from happening or me from feeling anxious.
It really just didn’t work.
So what do you do when your go-to response to the circumstances in life is worry and anxiety?
(I word it this way as my stress and anxiety have been situational, not a true anxiety disorder, of which I know are real. My thoughts and suggestions for dealing with our anxiety are based on that perspective, not directed to diagnosed anxiety disorders.)
My best weapons for situational anxieties (and some pretty difficult situations) are:
- The older I get and the longer I follow Christ, the more experience I have in seeing Him work in my life. In turn, this keeps me from waiting quite so long to look to Him when anxiety hits. Sometimes, the old me kicks in and tries to fix things myself, but more and more, I just skip that part and seek Him.
- He doesn’t promise us that the bad things in life that we fear won’t occur. Most of the time, we do waste our time worrying about things that will never happen, and in some cases, what we fear may result.
But He does take time to reduce or eliminate my fear and anxiety.
As I take that fine tip pen and begin to write, making my fears tangible, they come alive on paper. It is somehow this physical act of communicating that takes my swirling anxious thoughts and feels like I am better.
More importantly, as my faith grows as supernaturally, my obsessive anxious worry fades as I go about my business of living out the day.
Here are 5 defense tactics I use against anxiety:
- I study the Bible, so I learn more about God and can know Him better.
- Talk to God about it, and I like to journal to God. It helps me focus my “cares” and really get down to what I fear. I also can then tell myself what Scripture (God) wants me to hear based upon what I have learned by studying God’s word.
- I pray for His will. I have learned through personal experience that His ways and His will are always better for me than my own. That has helped me give up control…at least most of the time! When I don’t, I am quickly reminded that my ways don’t work and that He isn’t going to fight me for control. He will just simply sit back and wait until I am done and turn back to Him. Thankfully, He is all loving and will still help me.
- I try to see that my fear and worry are a lack of faith and trust in Him. If I believe He is the Creator of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, how can I not believe that He can give me peace when it surpasses understanding and that He can turn whatever my situation is into good in some way?
- And then I remember that on my own, I am probably not able to “not be anxious”, and that even in that, it is okay to look to Him to make it possible. So, I just admit that I am worried when I know I shouldn’t be, that I need Him to help me have the strength to focus on Him, and I need Him to help me trust Him.
I need Him to take my fear away, so I:
- Actively give it to God through my words.
- Define my feelings of anxiety and the reason for them – getting really clear on exactly what I am afraid of.
- Seek His help through prayer.
- Claim His promises to provide for me what I need in His time.